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Mental Health Commission casts doubt on value of Oireachtas Committee’s mental healthcare report

The Mental Health Commission (MHC) did not believe that the report from the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health, which was published towards the end of last year, was sufficiently detailed or thorough, the Medical Independent (MI) can report.

The purpose of the Joint Committee’s work was to achieve cross-party agreement on the implementation of a single, long-term vision for mental healthcare and the direction of mental health policy in Ireland.

“It was noted that while there were a few positive issues in the report, that overall, it was not a very detailed analysis,” according to the minutes of an MHC board meeting in October 2018.
The meeting noted that the Joint Committee has sought to continue its work.

“The members agreed that if this request is granted, the specific work to be done needs to be clearer and there needs to be more in depth analysis.”
When asked by MI whether the committee’s work would continue, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We have not been informed about any additional scheduled meetings.” At the time of the launch of the report, the MHC supported the Joint Committee’s call for a substantial increase in mental health funding.

Commenting on the report at the time of its launch, Mr John Saunders, Chair of the MHC, said: “We welcome the report and agree that there is a need for a significant increase in funding of mental health services and that funding should be ringfenced and prioritised. There is no question that mental health services have significant resourcing challenges, not least in staffing. However, we know that if we are to make any progress in these areas, we need funding to achieve that.

At the October meeting of the MHC board, the then interim Chief Executive Ms Rosemary Smyth and Commission member Dr Margot Wrigley provided a summary of a meeting they had with the Minister for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly.

“It was proposed that the MHC should meet more frequently with the Minister; however, it was noted that the Minister only has these meetings once a year with each agency within his remit.”
Overall, both the MHC and the Department of Health “thought the meeting went well”.

The MHC has recently produced a new Statement of Strategy for the years 2019 to 2022.

At the launch of the strategy, which took place in the Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dublin, the MHC issued a stark warning to providers of mental health services that where standards are not acceptable and human rights are not being upheld, they will intervene “using all powers necessary”.

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